The Flexible German Sentence

A German Superpower: Flexible Word Order 🤸🏾

Page created by Roslyn Green in March 2023

The flexibility of German word order opens up expressive possibilities that are unimaginable in English. As a result, a German writer or speaker can emphasise key ideas in dramatic and memorable ways. Nevertheless, there are rules: the first and most important one is about the position of the verb.

Image by AndiP from Pixabay

The Verb is Anchored in the Second Position

The anchor of the German sentence is the conjugated verb in the second position. Once the conjugated verb is moored in place, the rest of the sentence can flow around it, freed from the constraints of English word order.

Positions 1, 2 and 3: Sentence Examples

Key: subject | conjugated verb | adverb

Example 1: Outwardly she seemed calm. ⇢

1st Position2nd Position3rd PositionThe Rest

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Example 2: I’m starting to get cross with you. ⇢

1st Position2nd Position3rd PositionThe Rest
Langsamwerdeichsauer auf dich.
Ichwerdelangsamsauer auf dich.

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Example 3: The party was a complete flop. ⇢

1st Position2nd Position3rd PositionThe Rest
Die Partywarleiderein glatter Reinfall.
Leiderwardie Partyein glatter Reinfall.

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

Example 4: They are supposedly filthy rich. ⇢

1st Position2nd Position3rd PositionThe Rest

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

Sandwiching the Verb Between the 1st and 3rd Positions

As the examples above show, the positions of the subject and the adverb are often interchangeable. They frequently inhabit the first and third positions, with the verb sandwiched between them.

In contrast to English, a subject and an adverb cannot appear together at the start of a German sentence. The verb must be placed in between and no comma is required. In fact, since German comma rules are far more exact and prescriptive than those of English, a comma is simply wrong.

  • Leider, die Party war ein glatter Reinfall. The comma must be deleted and the verb inserted between the adverb and the subject, as in the correct examples below:
    • Leider war die Party ein glatter Reinfall. ⇢ Unfortunately, the party was a total flop.
    • Die Party war leider ein glatter Reinfall. ⇢ The party was unfortunately a total flop.

Online Quizzes

Quiz: The Flexible German Sentence

Infer the sentence rules from colour-coded examples, then practise constructing and correcting sentences.

Quiz: The Flexible German Sentence: Word Order Patterns

A drag and drop quiz focusing on Positions 1, 2 and 3, with varying word order options to consider and apply.

A Second Unit for German Beginners

Published by Roslyn Green in January 2023

Über mich 🖤❤️💛 ⇢ About me 🧒🏽

This unit guides learners towards introducing themselves and describing their origins in German. It covers regular verb conjugation in a simple way and provides practice with verbs such as wohnen (to live) and kommen (to come). There are also exercises related to the irregular verb haben (to have).

In addition to a downloadable booklet (embedded below), there are speaking flashcards, quizzes and a simple audio recording.

For a more challenging version of this unit, intended for fast learners, an alternative booklet as well as additional but related activities are available on this page.

Bildlexikon – Picture Dictionary: haben and sein

haben – to have: Ich habe heute Geburtstag. → Today is my birthday.

sein – to be: Ich bin zwölf Jahre alt. → I am 12 years old.

haben – to have: Wir haben eine Katze. We have a cat.

sein – to be: Sie ist süß. She is sweet.

haben – to have: Wir haben beide Laptops. → We both have laptops.

sein – to be: Wir sind Freunde. → We are friends.

haben – to have: Mein Bruder hat ein neues Handy. → My brother has a new mobile phone.

sein – to be: Es ist fantastisch. → It is fantastic.

Useful Links

Online Activities


These are question and answer flashcards. The first side has a greeting or question and the second side has an appropriate answer. The flashcards will “speak” if you click on the tiny microphone above the cards. A printout of this conversation is also provided below.

A Fill the Gap Quiz: Using Three Verbs – kommen, wohnen and sprechen

Revise your knowledge of these three key verbs.

A Jumble Kahoot: Place the words in the right order to answer the questions

Play with your class or with a small group of friends.

Audio text from page 7 of the unit booklet

Hallo! Mein Name ist Phoebe.

This audio was kindly recorded by Linda Manteuffel.

Read the text while you listen:

Hallo! Mein Name ist Phoebe und ich komme aus Neuseeland. Meine Eltern kommen aus England. Natürlich spreche ich Englisch, genau wie die Kinder in Australien. Meine beste Freundin heißt Sophie. Sie kommt aus China. Woher kommst du?

Ich wohne auf dem Land. Das finde ich super, denn ich liebe Tiere. Ich habe mein eigenes Pferd!

English Translation: Hello! My name is Phoebe and I come from New Zealand. My parents come from England. Of course I speak English, just like the children in Australia. My best friend is called Sophie. She comes from China. Where do you come from?

I live in the country. I think that’s wonderful, because I love animals. I have my own horse!

A Fill the Gap Quiz: Conjugating haben – the verb to have

Learn the conjugation of this crucial verb and practise using it correctly in sentences.

A German Starter Unit

Published in January 2023 by Roslyn Green

Ich lerne Deutsch 🖤❤️💛 I am learning German 🥨

This is a unit of work for beginner learners who are starting high school German. I wrote it in 2017 and updated it in 2022, improving the downloadable unit booklet and adding two quizzes and a Kahoot. The audio files were kindly recorded by Anthony Jäckisch, a gifted and charismatic young teacher with a melodious voice.

For fast learners, there is a more challenging version of this unit on this page, which also provides additional quizzes and activities on the conjugation of sein – to be and haben – to have.

All the very best from Roslyn Green

A tribute to Jacinda Ardern, a woman of integrity, honour and kindness: It has been a pure pleasure to live in a nearby country while Jacinda Ardern was the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I always hoped that her empathy, decency and humanity would rub off on our politicians in Australia. I wish her the very best for the next phase of her life.

Useful Links and Booklet 

Online Activities

Quick Introductory Quiz

The list of essential words in the table below will help you to complete the quiz.

Masculine NounsFeminine NounsNeuter Nouns
der Lehrer – male teacherdie Lehrerin – female teacherdas Buch – book
der Mann – mandie Frau – womandas Handy – mobile
der Junge – boydie Schule – schooldas Mädchen – girl
der Hund – dogdie Katze – cat
der Freund – frienddie Freundin – friend

Audio 1: Short text from page 4 of unit booklet

Hallo! – Guten Tag! – Ich heiße Finn.

This audio was kindly recorded by Anthony Jäckisch.

Audio 2: Short text from page 9 of unit booklet

Ben: Hallo! Wie heißt du?
Mia: Ich heiße Mia. Und du?

This audio was kindly recorded by Anthony Jäckisch.

Kahoot: Introduction to German

This quiz can be played with your class or in a small group of friends. It includes introductory questions about noun genders, German numbers and simple introductory sentences.

Revision Quiz Based on This Unit

This quiz provides practice with essential nouns, the concept of gender, subject pronouns and the conjugation of sein – to be. The last question includes a simple audio text with a fill-the-blank exercise.

Embedded below ↓

The Dative Prepositions

Published by Roslyn Green in January 2023

Nine German Prepositions that Trigger the Dative Case

These nine essential prepositions are always followed by the dative case. The example sentences below clarify their meaning and illustrate their usage. Click on each preposition in the list to jump to its description:

bei | aus | mit | zu | von | außer | nach | gegenüber | seit

KEY: Masculine Nouns Feminine NounsNeuter Nouns Plural Nouns PrepositionsDative Pronouns

bei ➡️ near, at, with, during, at a specific time, in a specific place, in particular conditions

Note: There are 18 uses of bei given in the Langenscheidt Großwörterbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache. The examples on the right are a mere introduction to the power of this little word.


Die Familie hat ein kleines Haus bei Berlin. ⇢ The family has a small house near Berlin.

Ich habe die Schokolade bei Woolworth gekauft. ⇢ I bought the chocolates at Woolworths.

Sie wohnt noch bei ihrer Familie, weil die Mietkosten sehr hoch sind. ⇢ She still lives with her family because the cost of renting is so high.

Bei Sonnenaufgang bin ich aufgewacht und spazieren gegangen. ⇢ I woke up at sunrise and went for a walk.

Bei uns in Australien ist es üblich, andere Menschen mit dem Vornamen anzusprechen. ⇢ It is commonly accepted in Australia to address one another by first names.

Bei schönem Wetter gehen wir oft zum Strand. When the weather is fine, we often go to the beach.

Er arbeitet bei der Post. He works for the postal service.


Die Kinder stammen aus armen Familien. ⇢ The children originate from poor families.

Ich habe mein Handy aus meiner Tasche genommen. ⇢ I took my phone out of my pocket.

Deine Mutter kommt aus Kambodscha, nicht wahr? ⇢ Your mother comes from Cambodia, doesn’t she?

Der Pulli ist aus Wolle. ⇢ The jumper is made of wool.

Der Junge hat nur aus Angst gelogen. Sei nicht zu streng mit ihm. ⇢ The boy only lied because he was afraid. Don’t be too hard on him.


Sie hat es nur mit Mühe geschafft. ⇢ She managed it only with difficulty.

Ich gehe gern mit meinen Freunden* aus. ⇢ I like going out with my friends.

Hast du Lust, mit uns ins Kino zu gehen? ⇢ Do you feel like coming with us to the movies?

Sie fahren mit der Straßenbahn ins Stadtzentrum. ⇢ They are going into the city centre by tram.

Mit zwanzig Jahren* ist er aus China ausgewandert. ⇢ At the age of 20, he emigrated from China.

*Note the dative -n ending on plural nouns.


Heute Abend gehen wir zu einer Freundin. Vielleicht werden wir bei ihr übernachten. ⇢ This evening we are going to a girlfriend’s place. Perhaps we’ll sleep over at her place.

Der Frosch ist zu einem Prinzen geworden. ⇢ The frog turned into a prince.

•Wollen wir zu Fuß hingehen? •Nein, wir nehmen das Auto. ⇢ •Shall we go on foot? •No, we’ll take the car.

Zu Weihnachten haben wir immer ein großes Familienfest. ⇢ We always have a big family party at Christmas.

Meine Mutter ist nicht zu Hause. ⇢ My mother is not (at) home.


Das ist lieb / nett von dir. ⇢ That’s kind / nice of you.

Der Krimi ist von Andrea Camilleri, einem italienischen Autor. ⇢ The crime novel is by Andrea Camilleri, an Italian writer.

Der Zug kommt von Paris. ⇢ The train is coming from Paris.

Von jetzt an müssen wir Energie sparen, um die Umwelt zu schützen. From now on we need to save energy to protect the environment.

Ich habe viel von dir gehört. ⇢ I’ve heard a lot about you.

Du darfst niemandem von dieser Situation erzählen! ⇢ You mustn’t tell anyone about this situation.


  • außer Atem – out of breath
  • außer Gefahrout of danger
  • außer Hörweiteout of hearing range
  • außer Dienstout of or not in service, off duty
  • außer Betrieb out of order

Außer ein paar blauen Flecken ist sie unverletzt. Except for a few bruises she’s uninjured.

Außer dir habe ich niemanden, dem ich vertrauen kann. Apart from you I have no one I can trust.

Außer Englisch spricht die Lehrerin Russisch und Deutsch. As well as English, the teacher speaks Russian and German.

Das Schuljahr ist zu Ende. Ich bin außer mir vor Freude. ⇢ The school year is over. I’m beside myself with joy.

nach ➡️ to, past, after

An excellent summary of going to the countries with articles:


Going home: Ich bin erschöpft. Ich gehe nach Hause. ⇢ I’m exhausted. I’m going home.

Going to a continent: Nächste Woche fliegen wir nach Europa. We’re flying to Europe next week.

Going to cities or towns: Der Zug nach Paris hat Verspätung. ⇢ The train to Paris is running late.

Going to countries without articles: Wir reisen morgen nach Neuseeland ab. ⇢ We are leaving tomorrow for New Zealand.

After the hour: Es ist Viertel nach fünf. ⇢ It is quarter past five.

After an event: Nach der Schule spielen wir Fußball im Park. After school we play football in the park.

In a direction: Wir fahren nach Süden. ⇢ We are heading south.


Unser Haus steht gegenüber einem Park. – Our house is opposite a park.

Der Grundschule gegenüber steht das Feuerwehrhaus. – Opposite the primary school is the fire station.

Auf der Party hat er sich uns gegenüber gesetzt. – He sat down across from us at the party.

Er ist mir gegenüber immer sehr höflich. Towards/with me, he is always very courteous.

seit ➡️ for, since

*Note the German use of the present tense with seit whenever the action continues into the present. In English, the perfect tense is required in such cases.


Wir kennen uns seit ewig. ⇢ We’ve known each other for ages / for ever.

Seit zwei Jahren habe ich ihn nicht mehr gesehen. ⇢ I haven’t seen him for two years.

Ich lerne schon seit zehn Jahren Deutsch. ⇢ I have been learning German for ten years.

Muslime tragen seit dem Mittelalter zur europäischen Kultur und Wissenschaft bei. ⇢ Muslims have contributed to European culture and science since the Middle Ages.

Seit ihrer Kindheit sind die Mädchen enge Freundinnen. ⇢ The girls have been close friends since their childhood.


Quiz created at LearnClick: The Dative Prepositions

This quiz provides practice with all the prepositions above and especially focuses on “bei” in the final question.

Quiz created at LearningApps: 9 Dative Prepositions, 2 Life Stories

Each snippet of a life story contains all 9 of the dative prepositions described above.

Trennbare Verben und Gegenteile

Published in December 2022 by Roslyn Green

Learning Separable Verbs as Opposites

Many of the verbs below have multiple meanings. The examples focus only on the meaning that represents a precise opposite of the other verb. This list includes some commonly used and practical choices, but it is far from comprehensive.

Bildlexikon und Beispiele | Picture Dictionary and Examples

aufwachen → to wake up

Am Wochenende wache ich früh auf, obwohl ich gern länger schlafen würde. – I wake up early at the weekend, although I’d like to sleep longer.

einschlafen → to fall asleep

Mein Mann schläft sehr schnell ein, während ich wach bleibe und über alles nachdenke. – My husband falls asleep very quickly while I stay awake thinking about everything.

sich anziehen → to get dressed

Sie zieht sich immer elegant an. – She always dresses elegantly.

(sich) ausziehen → to get undressed

Zieh dir die Stiefel aus, die sind voller Schlamm. – Take off your boots, they’re covered with mud.

anmachen → to turn on

Kannst du die Lampe💡 anmachen? Ich brauche mehr Licht zum Lesen. – Can you turn on the lamp? I need more light to read.

anschalten → to switch on

ausmachen → to turn off

Sie machte den Fernseher 📺 aus, weil sie die Reality-Show langweilig fand. – She turned off the TV because she found the reality show dull.

ausschalten → to switch off

Image by RD Law from Pixabay

aufmachen → to open

Ich habe das Fenster aufgemacht, denn wir brauchen frische Luft in diesem muffigen Raum. – I’ve opened the window because we need fresh air in this musty room.

zumachen → to close

Mach bitte die Tür 🚪 zu, mir ist kalt. – Please close the door, I feel cold.

Image by Kristijan Puljek from Pixabay

anfangen → to begin

Vor zehn Jahren habe ich angefangen, Deutsch zu lernen. – Ten years ago, I began to learn German.

aufhören → to stop

Ein Freund von mir versucht, mit dem Rauchen aufzuhören. – A friend of mine is trying to stop smoking.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

einziehen → to move in

Unsere Tochter möchte bei ihren Freundinnen einziehen. – Our daughter would like to move in with her girlfriends.

ausziehen → to move out

Er will aus diesem Haus ausziehen. He wants to move out of this house.

Image by Chu Viết Đôn from Pixabay

aufsteigen → to mount, get on

Die Frauen werden bald auf ihre Fahrräder aufsteigen und nach Hause fahren. – The women will soon get on their bikes and ride home.

absteigen → to dismount, get off

Steig von deinem Fahrrad ab. Auf dieser Brücke darfst du nicht fahren. Get off your bike. You’re not allowed to ride on this bridge.

herkommen → to come (towards the speaker)

Komm mal her zu mir! – Come here!

Also used to ask about origins: Wo kommst du her? – Where do you come from?

weggehen → to go away (from the speaker)

Geh weg, lass mich in Ruhe! – Go away, leave me alone / in peace.

zunehmen to put on weight

Während des Lockdowns habe ich drei Kilogramm zugenommen. – During the lockdown I gained three kilograms.

abnehmen → to lose weight

Jetzt möchte ich ein paar Kilo abnehmen und fit werden. – Now I’d like to lose a few kilos and get fit.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

glattgehen → to go smoothly

Die ganze Reise ist glattgegangen. Der Reiseführer war einfach genial. – The whole trip went smoothly. The guide was simply brilliant.

schiefgehen → to go wrong

Bei uns ist alles schiefgegangen. Nichts ist ausgegangen, wie wir es geplant hatten. – Everything went wrong for us. Nothing turned out as we had planned.

Image by AC works Co., Ltd. from Pixabay

absagen → to cancel, call off or turn down

Zuerst wollte sie auf die Feier kommen, aber dann hat sie abgesagt. – At first she wanted to come to the party, but then she cancelled.

zusagen → to accept an invitation or offer

Ich habe fünf Freunde eingeladen und vier haben schon zugesagt. – I have invited five friends and four have already accepted.

Image by victoraf from Pixabay

einsteigen to board, get on

Es war schwierig, mit so viel Gepäck einzusteigen. – It was difficult to board with so much luggage.

aussteigen → to get out or off, disembark

Das ist die Haltestelle, wo ich aussteige. – This is the stop where I get off.

Note: The verb aussteigen can also mean “to opt out” of something or to reject mainstream society and try something new.

Image by bhossfeld from Pixabay

aufbauen → to set up, build or assemble

Die Teenager können das Zelt in zwölf Minuten aufbauen.

abbauen → to dismantle, take down

Früh am Morgen haben sie das Zelt abgebaut. – Early in the morning, they dismantled the tent.

Note: This verb also has important figurative meanings: Stress abbauen – to relieve stress; Vorurteile abbauen – to break down prejudices, etc.

aufsetzen → to put on (a hat, glasses, etc.)

Die junge Frau setzt immer einen Strohhut und eine Sonnenbrille auf, bevor sie am Strand spazieren geht. – The young woman always puts on a straw hat and sunglasses before going for a walk at the beach.

absetzen → to take off (a hat, glasses, etc.)

Der alte Mann vergaß vor dem Einschlafen, seine Brille abzusetzen*. – The old man forgot to take off his glasses before falling asleep.

*The verb abnehmen is also possible in this context.

Image by n-kukova from Pixabay

sich einmischen → to interfere, to meddle, butt in

Mein Stiefvater hat sich in unseren Streit eingemischt, was mich genervt hat. – My stepfather got involved in our argument, which annoyed me.

sich raushalten → to stay out of something, avoid interfering

Ich wollte ihm sagen: „Es geht dich nicht an, halt dich da raus!” – I wanted to say to him, “It’s none of your business, stay out of it!”

Image by n-kukova from Pixabay

losfahren → to drive off, away

Meine Schwester ist gerade losgefahren. – My sister has just driven off / left.

anhalten → to pull up (in a car), stop

Der Autofahrer musste an der Ampel anhalten. – The driver had to stop at the light.


Quiz: Separable Verbs as Opposites

Choose the correct verb or prefix in a range of sentences based on the examples above. Fix these pesky separable verbs in your memory for ever.

Quiz: Trennbare Verben und Gegenteile

Type the missing words in sentences that include 8 pairs of the verbs above. Click on the help lightbulb to read the vocabulary list.